JERUSALEM (Aug. 14)
Israel’s Cabinet discussed today, at its weekly meeting, the Soviet Government’s order, issued in Moscow yesterday, expelling David Gavish, second secretary of Israel’s Embassy in the Soviet capital, on charges of “espionage.”
After Prime Minister Levi Eshkol reported to the Cabinet about the developments in Moscow, the Government discussed concrete steps for a reply to Moscow to what circles here called “a Soviet provocation which breaks normal conventions covering diplomatic relations between civilized nations.”
Mr. Gavish has been serving in the Israeli legation in Moscow for 13 months, occupied with consular affairs. Part of his work was to maintain contact with those Jews in Russia who were given Soviet Government permission to emigrate to Israel. He is 42, worked until 18 months ago in the Government’s statistical office here, and his assignment to Moscow was his first diplomatic post.
According to Tass, the official Soviet Government news agency, the Israeli was charged with activities “incompatible with the status of an accredited diplomat.” He was declared persona non-grata, and was ordered to leave the country immediately.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s correspondent in Jerusalem tried to telephone Mr. Gavish at Israel’s mission offices in Moscow this morning, but found that the diplomat was no longer working there. Members of Israel’s mission said they held a farewell party for him at the Embassy last night. They said that Mr. Gavish’s wife and two children are scheduled to leave Moscow tomorrow for Vienna, on their way back to Israel.
ISRAEL’S FOREIGN OFFICE TERMS SOVIET CHARGES ‘GROUNDLESS’
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry here said today that the Soviet charges against Mr. Gavish are “absolutely groundless,” adding: “The Soviet Government knows very well that no Israeli diplomat ever engaged in espionage, or engages in such practice now or ever will do so.” The Foreign Ministry said that notice of Mr. Gavish’s expulsion was received “with deep regret and great surprise.” The Ministry was very clear on the point that the Government rejects the Soviet charge against Mr. Gavish.
Political circles here discern several reasons for the Soviet Government’s action against Mr. Gavish. One motivation is the fact that, each year, about the period preceding the High Holy Days, the Soviet Government or press have found occasions to smear Israel as an offset to the pro-religious sentiments being stirred at that time among Jews in Russia.
An additional motivation seen this year was linked to the fact that the Soviet Union is eager to salve Syria’s feelings. Syria failed in the United Nations Security Council a week and a half ago to get a condemnation motion passed against Israel in connection with Israel’s air raid into Syria in July as a reprisal for Syria’s connivance with saboteurs terrorizing Israeli border settlements. Moscow backs the Syrian regime.